Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
The New Year is a great time to reflect and plan what we would like to accomplish for our pets and kids. Here are just a few goals my family set for the New Year:
We made a resolution to take more walks with our 12-year-old senior pup, Clyde. Our family really enjoys this time together, and it really connects us! We are also planning to take Clyde to the new dog park which opened last year in our town. I think this will be a wonderful learning experience for the kids, as they will see Clyde playing with his friends--some old and some new. And when you think about it, all the same sort of play date rules apply for pets as they do for kids: sharing space, taking turns and welcoming others into the group to play. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section to learn more on how to get the most of your visit to the dog park.
We are also going to start taking Gabriella to volunteer at our local library. Recently, opportunities have opened up for kids to read to shelter dogs. I believe this experience will be extremely fun and rewarding for her and the dogs we get matched up with!
Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a year of celebrating and strengthening that special bond we cherish with our pets and kids.
Our Lab mix, Django, likes to be with us. When we are in the living room, she’ll jump up next to one of us and snuggle on the couch. At night, she sleeps soundly in our bed, or sometimes in one of the kids’ beds. When we hang out in the yard, she’s there, too. She is our fourth child. Wherever we go, she goes, and it’s usually not a problem—except when she is underfoot while I’m cooking, hoping to catch a scrap or two that falls to the floor. When we are in the kitchen, she really has nowhere to go.
In the beginning, she’d try to find a spot on the floor, but our kitchen is small and when I’m preparing meals and the kids are in and out, there’s not a lot of free space for her. So I guess out of (her) necessity, she began to take a seat at the table…literally.
One day, I noticed that she was trying to get all of her body up onto one of the kitchen chairs. It was a slow process, and she tried her best to stay there as her hind legs and tail threatened to cause her to slide off. It was a sight to behold, and I called in my kids and husband to come see exactly what she was doing. Over time, she perfected the process and now she is a pro. In fact, when one of us gets up from the table to get an extra fork or drink, she takes our seat!
It’s one thing when a small dog will jump up and rest on a chair, but it’s a whole other experience when a big sloppy pup is trying to sit comfortably on a straight-backed chair. Django has always acted human in her own way, so it’s not a particularly big stretch to think she might want a chair of her own.
Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. (Clement Clark Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas)
Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, is a Christmas tradition that never grows old. I think of his lines while I carry boxes of ornaments from the attic and begin to decorate hearth and home. When it is time to place the pine roping over the mantle and hang the stockings, I do so “with care” for everyone in our family, including, of course, our dogs.
Once the tree is up and decorated and the stockings in place, we are ready for the holidays. Soon, kids will be home from school for winter break and we will greet out-of-town family with big hugs. Amidst the merriment, though, households can easily tip into a state of festive chaos giving family pets plenty of opportunities to find trouble. With snacks spread out on coffee tables—at perfect grazing height for dogs—and suitcases overflowing in guest rooms, inquisitive pups will search for both edible and non-edible treats.
Our family’s pack now includes eight-year-old Moose (pictured above with his stocking) who has been known to snatch many a peanut butter sandwich left carelessly on a counter. Our younger dog, four-year-old Gus, has an unfortunate taste for socks.
This holiday season, amidst the presents and the feasts, the cards and the decorations, I plan to use Moore’s poem as a way to remind my family that our dogs cruise for their own Christmas treats. For Gus’s sake, I will ask them to please remember to hang their stockings and, especially their socks, with care.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight— “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” (Clement Clark Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas)
You might recall I shared our dog Hayley’s story about being diagnosed with diabetes a couple of months ago. Since her diagnosis, it has been very difficult to control her blood sugar levels. Although her vet, Dr. Beverly, has been diligent about Hayley’s course of treatment and implementation of her daily insulin, her blood sugar remains high despite us having increased her insulin doses.
Dr. Beverly informed me that since Hayley’s diabetes was so challenging to control, she likely had an underlying problem—and testing revealed that the problem is Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is an adrenal-dependent or pituitary-dependent tumor that causes excess production of the hormone cortisol, along with a host of symptoms including increased thirst and urination, pot-bellied abdomen, skin moles, infections or flakiness, thin skin and loss of fur. Hayley’s Cushing’s case is pituitary dependent. She has gone on a daily medication that should eventually help control her diabetes. Just a few days ago, she began displaying symptoms of a urinary infection—a common effect of diabetes—and was given antibiotics.
Our little Hayley is having a tough time. There has scarcely been a week that we haven’t been to the vet. Yet through it all, if you saw her, you might never know she was sick. She is eating (voraciously), running around, spunky, happy—just like her old self. Her high spirits have helped our family absorb her diagnosis. She is the sweetest little thing, this little girl who came from an abusive past. She happily endures her insulin shots and pills.
I’m learning so much about Cushing’s disease and how common it is in certain breeds of older dogs. Our veterinarian has been so informative, patient and helpful over these past few months. He calls with Hayley’s test results and explains everything in detail, always willing to listen and answer questions. Hayley has a team of people pulling for her—and I think she feels our support.
Access Hollywood Live Co-Host and Access Hollywood Correspondent Kit Hoover brings enthusiasm to every story and celebrity she covers—but her greatest passion is for her family and her rescue animals. Hoover and her husband Crowley Sullivan live in Los Angeles with their three children (daughters Campbell, 12, and Hayes, 11, and 7-year-old son Crowley) and four rescue pets: cats Prince Harry and Button, Pickles the bunny, and Dr. Disco Bubbles the guinea pig. Hoover’s dedication to rescue animals is life-long, starting during her childhood in Atlanta.
Oh my goodness, I was raised in home that you could almost call “the farm.” We had tons of animals, and we rescued all of them—particularly German shepherds, because there was a huge German shepherd rescue in our suburb. Max was our pet, but we would house all of them until they could find homes. Many of the dogs had dysplasia in their back legs, so people who loved them as puppies didn’t want them when they got older. We’d find great homes for them.
I have an amazing story about Max. For a week before he died, Max couldn't walk or move his back legs. Suddenly one morning he got up, walked over to my brother and me, and licked our faces. Then we got on the school bus and he passed away that day.
Of course, my mother has a whole bunch of other stories that may or may not be true, like how he grabbed me by the diaper and stopped me from walking into the fireplace—there’s plenty of Max folklore in our family!
We also had two rescue cats. Growing up, I didn’t even know that such a thing as pet stores or buying pets even existed.
What did you learn from having a pet as a child?
Living with Max was the first time I experienced the unconditional love, support and protection that you get from a rescue animal. I think when you rescue an animal, it’s as if they know what you did for them, and the loyalty, support and love they give you is overwhelming. It’s like they’re saying, “I know what you did, and thank you so much.”
If you’ve never had a pet, you don’t know what you’re missing. We just had Betty White on the show, she’s 92 years old, and we talked about Pontiac, her rescue golden retriever. He’s her life. It’s amazing the way animals make such a difference in your life.
Did you always know you’d have pets when you had a family of your own?
It was a no-brainer that we were going to have pets. We rent a home in California, and they said we couldn’t have dog—but they didn’t say anything about other animals! So we’ve rescued three kittens, a bunny and a guinea pig!
I love pets for children because it teaches them responsibility and kindness. They pick them up, cuddle them and worry about them. It’s the greatest thing to watch them care about a living, breathing creature. My girls were in charge of cleaning the bunny’s cage and making sure there’s enough food and water. Of course, now that they’re back in school, I’m stepping up my duties! Yes, there’s work involved, but the play and fun are the best part. My kids all have their own Instagram accounts, so Dr. Disco Bubbles is big on social media.
Why do you support the work of the ASPCA?
It’s such a wonderful organization that does great work raising awareness for all these animals. I can’t imagine the thought of buying an animal when there are so many great animals that need rescue. And don’t even get me started on animal cruelty! I love an organization that works on behalf of shelter animals and helps find them homes.
The best bumper sticker I ever saw about rescue animals said, “Who rescued whom?” I love that! It’s such a winning combination: You will come out so far ahead if you rescue an animal.